5 Out podcast: Jazz forward Georges Niang addresses talk of team tension

Nick Friar
March 19, 2020 - 6:45 am

Rudy Gobert was under quite a bit of scrutiny after he preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19. Of course, his positive test led to the suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season, and other professional leagues in the U.S. quickly followed Adam Silver’s lead.

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But, even though Gobert’s diagnosis increased awareness about the coronavirus, he still received criticism for his actions leading up to the positive test.

Then, when Donovan Mitchell also tested positive, there was talk of tension brewing within the Jazz locker room, which stemmed from Gobert’s initial approach to the growing concern over COVID-19.

“The way it happened with Rudy obviously stinks, (being) the first NBA player to be publicly known to have it, ” Jazz forward and Methuen native Georges Niang said on WEEI.com’s 5 Out podcast. “And then games start getting shut down, season gets suspended. And, you know, a lot kind of fell on his plate. And, obviously, Rudy took accountability for his actions and was sorry. People make mistakes. ... We all still love Rudy. He’s our teammate, he’s our guy. He’s done so much for us on and off the court.”

With that, the Tilton School graduate isn’t worried about what will come next for the Jazz if they and the rest of the NBA are given the chance to finish out the 2019-20 season.

“I feel completely confident in our ability to take off and to win and to come together as a group, you know, minus what everybody (is) saying about the distractions and tensions,” Niang said. “Everybody is going to have more than enough time to digest what had happened and what was going on, and come back and to be able to put whatever agendas they had aside — not that they had any at all.

“Obviously, from the media aspect, there’s been whispers of things happening, but at the end of the day, we’re full of professionals in the Jazz locker room. And we have guys that come in and do their job, and that’s all that I ask. We have a great time with each other participating in the game that we love and competing for one common goal, and that’s to win. So, I don’t think that any of that (will) really affect us.”

All that being said, Niang gets why some on the outside might question what’s going on inside the Jazz locker room. Especially since no live sports are taking place, not just basketball.

“It kind of comes with the territory,” he said. “Obviously, you know, being (in) professional sports, people are going to make things out to be what they aren’t or what they think they are, or potential things, and that’s kind of what it is. I’m not going to address it any more than what I’m going to address now. But, obviously, the media is trying to create tension between a team that is at a vulnerable state. That makes complete sense. Everybody needs something to talk about.

“Obviously, people have conflict in sports. This isn’t, like, end all be all. But, sometimes you’re going to have things that other people do that you don’t like, but that’s part of the job of waking up every day of being a professional and doing your job. Not everybody is going to like each other. I’m not saying that’s what it is in our instance, but I’m sure there (are) conflicts that are in our locker room that I don’t even know about that people are trying to make a big deal about because they need a story because there no games, and there are no other conflicts going on. So, why not make a story about a team that would look to be splintering apart because they were the first team to have the coronavirus. But I think that’s only making us stronger, and I’m just excited to get back when we can, to build on what we want going forward, which is a championship.”

Listen to the latest episode of WEEI.com’s 5 Out to hear the full interview with Niang, where he also discusses the night in Oklahoma City when Gobert preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19. 5 Out is available on RADIO.COM, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify.